‘Christmas Vacation’: Chevy Chase Deemed 1 of His Young Co-Stars’ Performances ‘Brilliant’

The classic holiday film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation turned 31 years old in 2020. While acting as yet another vehicle for his comedic lead actor, Chevy Chase, the movie also showcased its younger stars’ talents. Learn which of them Chase praised for their ‘brilliant’ performance in the film.

‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ premiered in December 1989

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Christmas Vacation premiered on Dec. 1, 1989. The film follows Clark Griswold, a Chicagoan trying desperately to have the best Christmas ever. He encourages his wife, Ellen, and their kids, Audrey and Rusty, to help as their house fills up with grandparents, cousins, and other miscellaneous family members.

The Warner Bros. movie, written and produced by John Hughes, received mixed reviews. But it performed very well at the box office and has gone on to become a classic Christmas comedy. It even spawned a 2003 sequel, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2, though few of the cast members returned.

New actors portrayed the Griswold kids, Audrey and Rusty

Christmas Vacation is the third film in the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise. The first film, released in 1983, introduced the Griswold family, with Chase and Beverly D’Angelo originating their roles as Clark and Ellen. Anthony Michael Hall portrayed Rusty, while Dana Barron played Audrey.

The kid’s roles were recast for 1985’s National Lampoon’s European Vacation, and then again for Christmas Vacation. In the holiday caper, The Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki portrayed Rusty, while Academy Award-nominated actor Juliette Lewis played his older sister, Audrey.

Juliette Lewis’ co-stars praised her performance in ‘Christmas Vacation’

(L-R) Johnny Galecki, Juliette Lewis, Diane Ladd, Chevy Chase, and Beverly D'Angelo attend the AMPAS 30th Anniversary Screening of 'National Lampoons Christmas Vacation' on December 12, 2019.
(L-R) Johnny Galecki, Juliette Lewis, Diane Ladd, Chevy Chase, and Beverly D’Angelo attend the AMPAS 30th Anniversary Screening of ‘National Lampoons Christmas Vacation’ on December 12, 2019. | Jean Baptiste Lacroix/Getty Images

Lewis’ turn in Christmas Vacation came after just one other movie and a few recurring TV gigs. But she impressed her more seasoned co-stars. “Juliette was just coming into this incredible charisma and appeal,” D’Angelo told Rolling Stone in 2014. “She was like a ripening peach. Just amazing. She could say, “Who’s at the door?” and it’d be compelling.”

Even as the man at the center of the franchise, Chase agreed. “I thought Juliette’s performance was brilliant, frankly,” he said. “Her character was bored the whole f*cking time, which is what a teenage kid would be. It’s the stage where they’re thinking, “Well, I’m better than this.” She was wonderful.”

Galecki looked up to her. “Juliette was older than me by a year, but she might as well been on another planet,” he said. “I worshipped her…At that time I was, and still am, in awe of her. It was no surprise that within two years she was up for an Oscar. Nobody questioned that there was something boiling in that girl that was going to come out at some point.”

Lewis looks back on the filming experience fondly

Chevy Chase hides behind the tree in a scene from the film 'Christmas Vacation', 1989.
Chevy Chase hides behind the tree in a scene from the film ‘Christmas Vacation’, 1989. | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Though more comedic than her acclaimed movies like Cape Fear and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Lewis recalls the difficulties of shooting Christmas Vacation. “All of the gags in this film, and there’s a lot of them, are all really laborious to shoot,” she said. “They take hours, if not days.” But she maintains a positive outlook on the experience.

I haven’t seen the movie in 20 years, but I do get to relive aspects of it by other people talking to me about it and I just adore that,” said Lewis. “I love that I’m part of a Christmas classic. As a youngster, you don’t think past that week. Now, as 40 year-old Juliette, I think back and say to myself, ‘I was a Griswold. How cute.'”